Why Flip-Flops Hurt Your Feet
During most of the summer, the only thing standing in between the rough, hard, scorching hot cement and your tender tootsies are a slab of super soft, flat foam held on by two plastic straps and a toe peg.
After months of constant wear, your feet compress your ‘flops’ to nothing, you are sporting an amazing strap tan line, and your feet are too sore to take a step.
This is a scenario I see all too often. Clients are great about wearing supportive orthotics and structured footwear for nine months out of the year, but when summer comes, caution is thrown to the wind (as is treatment) and the outcomes are the cheap, unsupportive, plastic flip-flops and injury. The continuous cycle of healing and re-injury can be put to a halt by ‘flipping’ to structured, supportive sandals.
Why flip-flops hurt your feet
The reason why so many people are experiencing foot pain while wearing flip-flops is that the average flip-flop doesn’t support efficient biomechanics, has little to no shock absorption, and actually makes your body work harder when compared to walking barefoot.
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When looking at the design of a tradition flip flop you have a flat, super soft foam platform and two straps that wrap across the forefoot and are secured to the foam with a toe peg; very comparable to a portable gymnastic mat. This design creates a jarring sensation with each step and an unstable environment that the body must accommodate for.
The body adapts to the stress of walking on flip-flops by engaging the stabilizing tissues in the lower leg/foot. Muscles such as the posterior tibialis and the peroneals become fatigued from balancing on the spongy platform. The extreme tension/shock in every step harms connective tissues such as the plantar fascia and Achilles Tendons.
When the force and demand are too great for the above tissues micro-tears to develop. This results in inflammation (heat/swelling) as the body fights to heal itself. Inflammation of a muscle or connective tissue translates to the pain you experience when you take a step.
How supportive sandals help your feet
Supportive sandals can help prevent and treat such chronic foot pain by unloading the overused tissues. Structured sandals provide arch support to take tension off the plantar fascia and posterior tibialis, heel cups to support the heel in a neutral position and prevent overstretching the Achilles tendon, and wide straps distribute the pull on the top of the foot so the toes don’t have to grip the shoe.
READ MORE: 5 Tips for Selecting Supportive Sandals
We recommend wearing supportive sandals during both the summer months and in the home year round, in conjunction with using orthotics and proper footwear for the treatment of chronic foot pain such as plantar fasciitis.
The more your footwear supports your foot when experiencing foot pain, the better its ability is to heal; the more your foot fights to function and heal in unsupported positions, the more damage to the injured tissues.
By supporting the foot in its natural position, it is able to function efficiently throughout the day. And, you are able to have a foot pain-free summer!
Mikaela Patterson B.Sc (HS)